Sutcliffe, Lena A.

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                                 A. LENA WISEMAN SUTCLIFFE
                                   By Harold W. J. Adams


MIRAMICHI – She was a preacher’s daughter from Chatham. And the U. S. Navy named one of its highly decorated warships after her.

A. Lena Wiseman Sutcliffe was born in Chatham on May 8, 1871. She was the daughter of a Methodist minister of the Wesleyan Convention, the Reverend Ingham Sutcliffe and his third wife, Annie Amelia Bent of Amherst. Ingham served here from 1870-1873. Perhaps some of his exceptional abilities passed on to his daughter. He was known as a charismatic preacher and a skilled administrator.

Lena completed her training as a nurse at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899 and went on for further training at Fordham Hospital. She served in a private nursing practice for a brief time, the entered the United States Navy Nurse Corps on Oct. 1, 1908. She was appointed chief nurse on April 14, 1909 and on Jan. 20, 1911 became the second commandant of the United States Navy Nurse Corps.

She married Lieutenant Colonel John Henley Higbee, United States Marine Corps, but was widowed in 1909.

Lena served during World War One, receiving the United States Navy Cross on Nov. 11, 1920. The citation said in part, “For distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual conspicuous devotion to duty as superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps.” She was honourably discharged from the United States Navy on Nov. 30, 1923.

She died on January 10, 1941 in Winter Park, Florida and was buried beside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

But her name was destined to live on. Soon after her death, the United States Navy decided to name the destroyer USS Higbee after her, a first in American naval history.

Like its namesake, the ship had a distinguished career. The 390-foot, 10-inch USS Higbee earned one battle star for her service in World War Two and seven battle stars for her service in the Korean War. It is no longer in service.

It was built by the Bath Iron Works Corporation at Bath, Maine with the keel laid on June 26, 1944. Her speed was 35 knots and her armament six 5”/38 cal. dual purpose guns, plus two twin and two quadruple 40 MM. AA batteries.

The ship was christened by Lena’s sister, Mrs. A. M. Wheaton.


Source: Miramichi Leader Weekend – January 14, 2000

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